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Why I’ve never wanted to be a manager

Last night I called the mother of one of my players to ask her to attend a Team Mom meeting on Tuesday. We will get our schedule and information about uniforms at that time, so I’ll finally be able to plan out my time for the next two months.

After she agreed to attend this meeting, she dropped a little bombshell on me: Apparently, a couple of the other moms had a problem with the way my assistant coach ran the practices on Thursday and Saturday. Hoo boy.

One reason why I’ve never been interested in pursuing a manager’s role at work is because I have no desire to deal with personality conflicts. I don’t want to have to sort out who did what to whom, who started it, whose fault it is, who’s getting shafted and who’s getting away with it, etc etc etc. Some day, I’ll have kids of my own, and I’ll have to deal with that sort of thing with them. I don’t need it from adults.

It turned out not to be so bad. My assistant coach has been very helpful to me, but he’s not particularly warm and fuzzy (as one of the moms I spoke to put it). He wanted to work out particular kids at particular positions, based on some covnersations we’d had about where I thought they’d be playing, and wasn’t very receptive to questions about it. I mostly listened to the moms and let them vent a little – there are days when having a background in customer service really comes in handy – and assured them that everyone on the team has a contribution to make. Both of them told me they appreciated my taking the time to talk to them, so I hope this incident is behind us.

One thing that came out of my conversation with my assistant coach, whom I spoke to before I called the moms, was how to marry a philosophy of wanting to have fun with the reality that winning is more fun than losing. I’m a relatively mature adult who knows full well that Winning Isn’t Everything. On the other hand, as Charlie Brown once said, losing isn’t anything. I’ve played on various beer league softball teams, all of which were mediocre at best, and it’s my personal opinion that it’s a lot harder to just play for fun if you have no chance to win. There’s no joy in getting your butt kicked on a regular basis.

A coach of a team in a competitive league has to put the welfare of the team ahead of the welfare of any individual. In particular, that means only playing your best players. This league insists on having everyone play, and that’s a philosophy I support. That doesn’t mean that everyone gets to play wherever they want, though. I do think that at this level it’s in the best interests of both the team and the individuals to generally play the best players in the infield, since that’s where most of the action is. I want to give everyone a chance to succeed, and that means not setting them up to fail.

To be blunt about it, there are a couple of kids who don’t catch or throw well enough to warrant regular playing time on a team whose primary mission is to win. Our primary missions are fun and learning, so they’ll play as much as everyone else does. Given that I do believe that you cannot completely de-emphasize winning, however, I’ll be limiting how often they play in the infield.

(On a side note, as it happens both of the kids whose moms I spoke to would be reasonably successful in the infield. I believe they will be more successful in the outfield, not because they’ll be hidden from the action but because I think they can shag fly balls. I told them as much, and I plan on giving a form of that speech to the kids themselves on Tuesday.)

It’s a fine balance, and I expect to stumble a few times on the way. I hope the next time I’m confronted by this issue it goes as smoothly as this one seems to have gone.

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